Health Check: What You Need to Know About Ear Wax
Ear wax may not be something you particularly want to think or talk about, but it plays a surprisingly important part in your life and can have even more of an impact if it fails to work as it should. Although you may not want to become too much of an expert in this sticky substance, there are a few things that you really should know about ear wax.
What is ear wax?
Ear wax is a natural substance that is designed to protect you and your ears from germs and dirt. It is also known as cerumen and has both antibacterial and lubricating properties. It is made in the outer area of your ear canal, rather than deep inside, and is produced from hair and dead skin cells. This combines with different glandular secretions to create the sticky substance that you are used to seeing.
What happens when ear wax builds up
Ear wax will normally just fall out of your ears of its own accord - helped by the movement of your jaw - but it can build up and cause problems. If this happens, some of the symptoms you could encounter include:
Buzzing or ringing (tinnitus) in your ears
A feeling that you have blocked ears
Vertigo (feeling sick and dizzy)
If these symptoms occur, the ear wax may have become impacted. This is not due to uncleanliness. Ears are meant to clean themselves and most people don’t need to clean their ears at all. In fact, ear wax build-up can often be caused by people using bobby pins or cotton swabs in an attempt to clean their ears.
Impacted ear wax can result in a range of physical symptoms, in addition to causing practical problems for medical professionals. A large build-up can make it really difficult to see into your ear and can result in problems going undiagnosed.
The color of your ear wax
Healthy ear wax can vary in color, and factors such as whether it is wet or dry will also have an impact. Generally, older wax will be darker. You should contact your healthcare provider if it contains greenish or white pus or blood.
How to treat an ear wax buildup
First and foremost, it’s important to know what you shouldn’t do. Don’t start trying to get at the wax using your fingers or cotton swabs. This can have the opposite effect of what you want and end up pushing it in even further. There’s also no evidence that ear vacuums or ear candles are effective at getting rid of ear wax.
A much more sensible solution is to use olive oil or, better still, a specialist product such as Innerscope Ear Spray Cleaner & Wax Removal. Such products offer prevention as well as treatment and can help to prevent wax from building up. This will help to stop problems from occurring and complement other products you may use, such as Hydrating & Lubricating Ear Gel. You may just need to be careful about using ear drops if you have a hole in your eardrum. If this is the case, make sure you get professional medical advice.
When to see a medical professional
In addition to the occasion mentioned previously, there are other times when you should seek medical advice or assistance about your ear wax. These include:
If you are experiencing symptoms that have continued for five days or longer
Your ear is so badly blocked that you cannot hear at all. If this is the case, there is a risk that you could get an infection in your ear.
What causes ear wax buildup?
There are many reasons why ear wax can build up in your ears. It could be that there is a physiological issue that makes you prone to buildup, such as if you have damaged or particularly narrow ear canals or if you have large amounts of hair within your ear canals. You may also have conditions of the skin that affect the area around the ear, or you could have swimmer’s ear, which is also known as otitis externa and is an inflammation of the canal.
Prevent ear wax buildup
You can’t stop ear wax and it is vital that it is there, but you don’t need to put up with painful or inconvenient buildups. Using cleaning drops for a few days can help to soften any wax in your ears and ensure it falls out as it should rather than building up and causing problems.